September is Sexual Health Awareness Month, and in honor, here are some ways to protect you and your partner(s).
Sexually transmitted diseases on college campuses are alarmingly common, and the University of Mississippi is no exception. However, there are plenty of resources in and around Oxford that allow students to take responsibility for their sexual health.
“STI testing is done routinely as part of our daily practice at Student Health,” Dr. Travis Yates, director of University Health Services, said.
He said it is difficult to pinpoint what percentage of students have sought services, given that there are also other health clinics in town. According to the Center for Disease Control, Mississippi still has some of the highest STD rates in the country. In 2015, Mississippi had the third-highest rate of gonorrhea and the fifth-highest rate for chlamydia.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are the two most frequently occurring diseases. Although they often do not show symptoms, being left untreated can cause long-term complications such as infertility, which is why it is so important to get tested often, but both are easily treated with antibiotics.
“We recommend annual testing of sexually active students, even those who have no symptoms,” Yates said. “Students who develop symptoms of genital lesions, vaginal or penile discharge, burning or itching should be promptly evaluated.”
Condoms are offered for free in the Student Health Center and most clinics.
“Correct condom use with each sexual encounter is strongly recommended,” Yates said. “Of course, avoidance of sex with an infected partner is most effective.”
The Mississippi Department of Health reported seeing a rise in syphilis rates. From 2013 to 2016, those rates tripled. Syphilis is an “old-school” disease, which makes these statistics somewhat shocking.
According to the Mississippi Department of Health, it is reported that Mississippi had the ninth-highest HIV diagnosis rate. The Student Health Center and the Lafayette County Health Department offer free HIV testing. Testing for other STDs varies. On campus, testing ranges from $35 to $150, depending on how many tests are being done. The Lafayette County Health Department conducts STD screening free of charge.
“Other than the health department, I suspect that Student Health is the most affordable source of sexual health testing for our students,” Yates said.
Taking responsibility for your sexual health is as simple as having a discussion with your partner. Given that so many sexual diseases are asymptomatic and therefore not always visible, taking responsibility for your health is vital. Prevention is key, but a diagnosis is not the end of the world. Detecting complications early on and seeking treatment is conducive to minimizing long-term health problems. The resources provided around Oxford and on campus can ensure that you have a safe sex life.